Comment on Tennessean article re: public notices
January 29, 2011
Williams inadvertently perhaps has hit on a major feature of the U.S. Constitution namely, the First Amendment (Bill of Rights) which says among other things, “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press…”.
The constitutionality of the proposed Tennessee law should at least be questioned. But being aware that the thrust of our founders was to have a more open government, changes in state and local laws or rules should be disseminated as widely as possible without constraint.
Most public hearings are pitifully lacking in citizen participation; while a quorum is always required before passage, there never is a minimum number attending public hearings to pass a law. The bureaucracy says that is a sign of satisfaction of citizens and they move to put the changes in place.
The more notice to the public the better and that means the widest possible spread of any proposed changes, in other words, the process should lean to more openness rather than inward directed solutions.
“Newspapers are here to stay”, goes the wish and I believe they will survive in a tumultuous age of technology but newspapers, even the smaller ones, have been on a long, steady decline for many, many years. It’s not economical to publish them for the most part regardless of how much revenue they get from “legal notices”.
Here’s what I see for the future of “public hearings”. Votes from registered voters will be made electronically any time for any proposed legislation. Voters will have become aware of the pending business through streaming internet of official meetings, reading up on the subject, and interactively asking questions. Every library offers internet access so no one would be left out.
Elected representatives have been known to have been hornswoggled by developers promising more revenues, etc. Government needs constantly to be watched; the more eyes on them the better the government, the less of the good ‘ol boy dealings.
I have a personal battle of sorts with the Knoxville News Sentinel, actually its parent company E.W. Scripps. I have commented vigorously about the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and have been a longtime critic of it. But I was caught completely by surprise when suddenly and without any reason I was banned from commenting on any of the Scripps sites. While they do not have too many active newspapers, still it was a show of strength of a formidable foe, TVA.
I will be publishing a book about the TVA which is not complimentary at all and in fact I will charge them with a number of fraudulent acts. So when does “freedom of speech” and “freedom of the press” conflict?
It’s an interesting argument and I’m living through it now.